Cracking the Code to Account Based Marketing on LinkedIn & Beyond

September 25, 2017

Account Based Marketing

Most B2B organizations are focused on lead nurturing. The question is: how do you foster water cooler conversations leading to more people, perhaps buyer committees, being aware of your brand and your solutions? The answer: account based marketing. Account based marketing is how you help create champions within companies and getting those influencers early is critical. Although account based marketing is all the rage right now, there is still a large gap to close with marketer savviness.

I had a conversation with several LinkedIn Account Managers to get a sense of what they are seeing with our customers. They shared that they see a broad range of savviness with plenty of potential for marketers to step up their account based marketing game. According to the Bizible 2017 State of Pipeline Marketing Report, less than 30% of marketers surveyed are seriously using account based marketing strategy. Of those that invest in account based marketing, less than 30% consider their strategy to be effective or extremely effective.

In this post I’ll share some of the key areas for success in account based marketing with pro-tips to make sure you set yourself up for success!

It Starts With Trust

Today, marketers are wrestling with issues of trust in advertising and media. "Consumers are navigating a ‘post-truth’ media and news environment. Feeling bombarded and duped by ‘fake news’, they are not sure who to turn to. Trust in the mainstream media has fallen to a 17-year low as cited by Edelman". Also, a new research study conducted by Edelman and LinkedIn, underscores the a driving role of thought leadership content in driving B2B sales, including attracting RFP opportunities, creating preference with buyers, directly contributing to sales wins and even commanding a premium for products and services.

This is why it is important to run account based marketing and inbound marketing together. Running tandem programs will make your upselling and cross-selling efforts more effective. Trust is core to the whole thing, and helpful thought leadership allows you to open the door for influencers at your target companies.

Here are some pro-tips for building trust with account based marketing and inbound marketing:

  1. Know Customer Pain Points - Get familiar with your customer's pain points. Focus on topics that cover the intent and the problem that your customer has and/or the challenge that they're facing.
  2. Focus on Intent and Activity - You want to have lead nurturing that follows-up on key points. For example, if someone downloads an ebook, in the event that they don't read it, you can target them with key points.
  3. Test Video - Consider testing video to personalize your message.
  4. Leverage Your Employees to distribute thought leadership content.
  5. Go Offline - Don't count out using offline techniques like direct mail.

Strengthen Marketing & Sales Alignment

Account-based marketing extends the role of marketing. Account selection in collaboration with sales is half the work. Keep in mind that 20% of accounts often deliver 80% of the revenue so prioritization and assessing potential is key. Once you've decided, you can map out your account based marketing plan.

According to a recent study by InsideView and Demand Gen Report, 49% of respondents cited that a communication breakdown is by far the greatest culprit for sales and marketing misalignment. Broken and flawed processes (43%), as well as sales and marketing being measured by different metrics (40%), rounded out the reasons for the gap between sales and marketing.

Work on the sales and marketing alignment in your own house to get started.  Sales has the juice. Being in sync with sales allows you to identify the best fit accounts for your company to target. It also strengthens your ability to connect with and qualify strong leads with inbound.

Here are some pro-tips for strengthening your sales and marketing alignment:

  1. Try Pilot Campaigns - to test out your plan and get buy in from sales leadership and key stakeholders. Start small.
  2. Go ABM AND Inbound - Don't just talk about account based marketing with sales, talk about inbound marketing. Beyond aligning on key accounts, have conversations about what the customer journey looks like and get clear on what a top notch lead looks like. Your account and lead scoring plans will be more effective.
  3. Consider Un-gating Content - With an intent to retarget viewers who view and download assets. Create segments to retarget and use email lists for nurturing.
  4. Read This Ebook - Solving Sales and Marketing Alignment for more tips.

Don’t Over-target

On LinkedIn, you are able to reach a high caliber of people with accurate targeting. Beyond our demographic targeting options, LinkedIn matched audiences allow you to build saved advertising audiences from your, "first-party" data. With Account Targeting, you can securely upload a CSV list of company names and match that against the nearly 12 million company pages on LinkedIn. This lets you support your account-based marketing programs by reaching decision makers at your target companies.

I asked several LinkedIn Account Managers about the targeting mistakes they see. Some people will send over such a massive list of customers that they may as well use LinkedIn’s industry targeting options. At the other end of the spectrum, some customers will send a too small list, far too narrow to scale – e.g. like targeting a company in rural Montana. Others throw the kitchen sink at demographic targeting – job function + job title + seniority + etc... All of this leads to a big waste of advertising dollars. Successful targeting requires an intimate knowledge of the customer, where they are in their buyer journey, and is especially important for enterprise and B2B marketing where many stakeholders may be involved in a sale.

Here are some ABM targeting pro tips:

  1. Have a Balanced Targeting Strategy - How you decide to target depends on your campaign goals and your imagination. That said, ensure that your targeting strategy is balanced - not overly broad or overly niche.
  2. Exclude Competitors - Create an audience that includes users from companies you want to target while excluding your competitors.
  3. Test one Targeting Facet at a Time - so that you know what actually works. If performance declines, you can also try swapping out content. Use an A/B testing approach.
  4. Combine Account Based Strategies - with other account based strategies such as having a sales rep reach out simultaneously or fielding relevant direct mail pieces.

Set Up Your System

Account-based marketing can be campaign-focused or lead-focused. Either way, make sure that you have the infrastructure built out to measure and manage the influx of leads. Ask: with resources that you currently have, can you handle incoming leads? Your sales team has to be ready. Cold leads diminish in value over time and make for missed opportunities. From a talent perspective for account-based marketing, it's important to hire roles that understand the entire funnel.

Here are some pro-tips for setting up your ABM system:

  1. Create Tiers - From a customization standpoint, consider tiering, creating three different levels to make account-based marketing more manageable. The question is, who do you want to influence? At tier 1 maybe you have 50 to 100 accounts. You can also be vertical and industry specific.
  2. Align on Goals and Create a Repeatable Program - Begin with a focused campaign and go after early wins.
  3. Remember the Funnel is Not Linear - From a system standpoint, when evaluating if your approach is working, understand that the funnel is not linear. The funnel was created for sales, but marketing adapted it.

Measure Performance

The goal of account based advertising isn’t necessarily to get MORE leads. The primary goal of account based advertising is to get BETTER leads, with higher conversion rates to opportunities, deals and account penetration. This is what ABM marketers care about.

From a measurement standpoint, you can look at pipeline velocity and deal velocity. These are sales cycle accelerators. They reduce stress and effort from a sales perspective and also showcase a better alignment between marketing and sales. Time is another measurement tool. If people are spending more time and focus on your company, it can demonstrate the health of your relationship. Time on website can also lead to more interest and intent - it can indicate interest in intent. It can also indicate the depth and quality of interactions, in particular if people are visiting pages on your website like the pricing page.

Here are pro-tips for achieving account based marketing ROI:

  1. Stay Focused on the Right Goal - Remember, your goal is to create air cover for sales so create your target accounts with their help and don’t lose sight of this goal.
  2. Check In With Sales - Build in metrics check ins with Sales into your ABM plans. You know you are moving in the right direction if you are able to influence pipeline velocity, account penetration, growth in LinkedIn connections, new connections with target organizations and deal size.
  3. Pay Attention to Lead Quality - It is important to pay attention to lead quality. Poor quality leads will ultimately be more expensive in the long run.

Whether you are a one woman or man band or a more sophisticated operation, there is ground to gain by investing in a system to manage your account based marketing approach. Start with trust, align with sales, don’t over-target, set up your system and measure performance to up your account based marketing game!

To learn more about ABM on LinkedIn and beyond, download the Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Account-Based Marketing.